Billy Duffy (born William Henry Duffy, 12 May 1961, Hulme, Manchester) is a hard rock and alternative rock guitarist best known for his role in post punk band The Cult. His fusion of punk and rock riffs had a dark, mystic vibe. In the mid-2000s, he formed a new band called Circus Diablo.
When the initial punk rock movement led by the Sex Pistols became stale and was replaced by the jagged, aggressive UK 82-style hardcore of band like Discharge Duffy switched genres to the moodier and more arty style of Theatre of Hate. He eventually met Ian Astbury (the front man for positive punk band Southern Death Cult), who abandoned SDC to start a new band with Duffy. Together, they exploited the Southern Death Cult's success by calling themselves Death Cult. After initial fanfare and a couple of singles, Duffy convinced Astbury to shorten the band's name to The Cult following a trip to New York.
As early as The Cult's debut single "Spiritwalker", Duffy began establishing a distinctive flanged sound with an offbeat choice of guitar, a mid 1970s Gretsch White Falcon. His fusion of punk and rock riffs, intricately connected, inhabited a middle ground between U2's The Edge and the screaming distortion leads of Jimi Hendrix. Duffy's sound was unique, with a dark, mystic vibe that complemented Astbury's eccentricity. With songs like "She Sells Sanctuary", "The Phoenix", and "Nirvana" (from their second album, 1985's critically acclaimed Love), Duffy became one alternative rock's original guitarists.
As Duffy's music became Americanized to incorporate the then-popular glam metal sounds, Duffy himself was becoming more Americanized. He moved to Los Angeles in 1988 with Astbury, where both remain. There, the two writing partners (with longtime bassist Jamie Stewart) moved towards a loud stadium rock style with their album Sonic Temple. By Astbury's account, the album was intended to be a marriage of their Love and Electric albums. Duffy had traded in his Gretsch for a Les Paul, and with it, his signature sound was replaced with a more predictable, commercial sound. The Cult thus reached a larger, mainstream audience, but only to the extent of competing for attention with a dozen other glam metal bands. The attention from the public could not be sustained as The Cult floundered with their next album, Ceremony, at the dawn of the grunge age.
Following the "Ceremonial Stomp" tour of 1992 (with Lenny Kravitz supporting), Astbury pressured Duffy to get back to his original sound and tone for the band's next album, Black Sheep. The weariness of the recent years led Astbury to depart from The Cult in 1995. During the band's four-year hiatus, Duffy played with Mike Peters of The Alarm in a project called Coloursound, which garnered a modest response in the United Kingdom.
In early 2006, Duffy recorded a debut album with his new band, Circus Diablo. The album was recorded with Duffy playing lead guitar and former Cult touring bass player Billy Morrison handling lead vocals and bass guitar duties. Former The Almighty frontman, Ricky Warwick, plays rhythm guitar on the CD. The former Cult, current Velvet Revolver drummer, Matt Sorum also played on the record and appears courtesy of RCA Records. After the completion of the album, former Fuel member Brett Scallions was added to be the bassist, so Morrison could focus on being the lead singer. Then, Jeremy Colson formerly with Steve Vai, was brought in to be the full time drummer for the band. In 2007, he was a judge on Bodog Music's Battle Of The Bands.